Kyle Newman knows his Star Wars-speak. The self-proclaimed “fan boy” threw himself into his work to bring us a film about how “the force” may be the necessary tool to make sense of one's life. Fan Boys is the tale of four individuals whose youth may be fading in the rear view, but they collectively refuse to give up on the phenomenon that got them through their Skywalker-crazed adolescence. Whether you’re a staunch appreciator of all things-Shatner, or secretly call your right-hand Leia, Newman can relate to your thirst for knowledge of all things galactic. It’s perhaps his directorial ability to mesh the supernatural with the nature of life that gives his film the heart you wouldn’t expect from a movie about Han Solo-worshipping twenty somethings, whose lives converge for a fantastic voyage to a George Lucas’ elusive Skywalker-ranch.
In Shooting a film like Fan Boys, is it required to have your cast members bring their own fandom to the table, or is this something you feel you have to coach them on? Did you find yourself having to sort of “force” feed the lineage of Star Wars down your actor’s throats?
Well what we found when we held auditions, is that most of the actors did have a little bit of that fan-side in them. But once people were all on set, no matter what level of “fan” you were there was just good-spirit, and everyone just sort of picked it up. Everyone understood it, and went with it. If they weren’t that big of a fan to begin with, they became one as the shooting went on. Everyone wound up having an affinity for Star Wars.
Right. It’s impossible not to. My father’s actually a “Trekkie,” or “Trekker,” as it’s distinguished in your film. We debate about the two franchises a lot.
Well, I like Star Trek, too!
Star Trek 2, or Star Trek as well? [laughs]
[laughs] Well, both, but especially Star Trek 2.
Fantastic! That leads me to my next question. In Hollywood, being a “geek” is “in.” Being a gawky, awkward individual with specific pop-culture tastes is “cool.” What’s the difference between looking for a movie star, and looking for somebody to embody that offbeat kind of character?
I was really looking for actors. Not just comedians. I was also looking for people who could bring dramatic elements to the film. Don Fogler had done Broadway. He really has a dense dramatic side. He could turn off the comedy completely and do a really intense role. But, he could also do physical comedy. I was really looking for actors with that elasticity. It was the same thing with Jay Baruchel—he could bring a lot of emotion to a scene, but he could also be really funny. Then with Chris Marquette. The core of the film is his subplot. Everyone knows what Chris had done from Girl Next Door and other films, but he’s also got that dramatic side as well. I mean, look at Alpha Dog. I really found actors who hadn’t been pigeonholed yet, you know? Kristen really has the ability as well, to do both. She kind of grounded the movie. I just wanted to find people who you could say, “Hey, I know that guy, I would hang out with them.” Sam really embodies that “everyman” quality for our lead guy. He was going through that crisis you go through when you’re maturing out of college, getting a new job, and giving [childish] things up. The question is: Do you have to give them up? Is it sort of just like “cutting the chord?”
Regarding things like “Star Wars-speak,” how important is it for your actors, and screenwriter to really nail that language?
It’s hard, because it’s got to appear to happen naturally and organically. Some of it you just smile at. You can’t really go for laughs the whole time. I was really just going for smiles—where you go, “Oh, I know that. That’s familiar.” That was the goal rather than just setting up big laughs. It was a big part of it to have that banter be honest, and real. That’s how we Star Wars fans talk. They make pop-culture references to the film, and other films and shows, like Thundercats, and bands like Rush. It’s what we grew up on. sure, we pushed it a little bit to make sure the references popped, but we also tried to maintain the honesty behind it.
There’s one scene in particular during the road trip portion and they reference Harrison Ford having never made a bad film. Coincidentally, they’re passing a billboard for Six Days, and Seven Nights. I laughed like a nut job because that has to be one of my least-favorite movies… ever. How do you figure out how to nail those jokingly quaint moments of reference—where audience members go, “Oh, 1998, where have you been?” How do you tiptoe around referencing an era without having to go over the top?
The billboard thing was just a bit of visual-punctuation. It was part of the montage. Getting away with those quick-visuals works because then you don’t have to have an entire scene where you’re just sitting there talking about it… It’s just all about having a conversation about life, and then all of the sudden you’re talking about “the force,” and how all these things mesh together.
A lot of my friends who are into Star Wars are just as adamant about which bands they listen to. A few of them are full-on “punk rock” enthusiasts. With your film in mind, I got to thinking about the whole “punk ethos” that fans adhere to regarding their love for the genre. It’s the same thing with “fanboys.” These subgroups like to find their click, and they largely dress alike, are into the same social functions, etc… You have to admit (a) you’re an outcast, and (b) you belong to a sub group. Do you think it enriches one's youth to dive so passionately into such fandom, or does it slow their progress into adulthood?
Well, that’s what Fanboys is about. “Fanboys” are not casual fans. They are individuals who wear their hearts on their sleeve. It doesn’t matter which culture it is. If you’re really into Fantasy Sports, you wear your jersey when you go to your league’s draft. It’s just how it is. If you’re really into music, and you have buttons all over your jacket—there’s a certain type of code to the way you dress. It’s a subculture that becomes a mass culture. The comic book, fan-boy, -movie-culture has fused. There are a lot of franchises that get grouped together as result of that. You really think there’s a stereotype. There isn’t, it’s that maybe these people like to get together and put on their storm-trooper outfits. When they take it off, they go home to all different walks of life. It’s like with “Hutch.” For him, his fandom may be a little more debilitating than “Linus.’”
It’s strange how much these pop-culture phenomenons give us as a society.
Right, it’s like what The Simpsons has been doing for 20 years. In each episode so many things are happening you might not even be aware of. You get most of them, but they touch on everything from politics, to music, film, and cartoons—The “Fan boy culture” is actually a very intelligent bunch. They get the references and the underlying stuff that goes long with it. It’s a really smart group of people.
Quick Questions with Kyle Newman:
C: Does Seth Rogan ever sleep?
KN: I have yet to see him sleep.
C: Three bands that get the most play on you iPod?
KN: Fleet Foxes, Great Lake Swimmers, and David Bowie.
C: DJ or Live Band at your wedding?
KN: Is karaoke involved with the live band?
KN: Can they be my back-up band? [Laughs] I think I’d prefer the DJ.
C: Least favorite aspect about celebrity?
KN: Spencer Pratt.
C: [Laughs] Thanks.